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Rethymnon Town Crete

Ρέθυμνο - we love Rethymnon town. There is so much to see and do, we never stop discovering new spots. We are happy to share some of our favourites. Known for its picturesque old town and Venetian harbour, travellers will find a world of history here, in the north coast of Crete.

Ρέθυμνο is on the north coast 80 km from Heraklion, and 60 km from Chania; it is capital of the region of the same name.

Enjoy the highlights of the Old Town of Rethymnon:

Rethymno HarbourRethymnon Town from across the bay

Rethymnon Town and MountainsLooking across the rooftops to the mountains behind Rethymnon


This town was built on the site of ancient Rithymna, part of the ancient Minoan civilisation.

Rethymnon shares the long and colourful history of Crete. The ancient Minoan period from 2600 to 1100 BC, the Geometric and Daedalian period 1100-620 BC, the Classical 500-330 BC and Hellenistic 330-67 BC periods and Greco-Roman period 67 BC-323 AD.

After the First Byzantine period 330-824 came the years of Arab rule between 824-961, after liberation the Second Byzantine period 961-1210 after which came Venetian and Genoan rule then Turkish rule for 400 years. Liberation came again in 1898 after many terrible and rebellious years. Unification with the modern state of Greece came in 1913.

The Fortezza overlooking the sea (photo by dalbera)The ruins of the Venetian Fortezza overlooking the sea

The Venetian Fortress on the tip of the peninsula, is in ruins. The original was constructed in the sixteenth century. Coins from the Minoan civilization have been found on this site. We can guess that a shrine or sanctuary was located here, worshipping gods and goddesses and dolphins from the sea as depicted on the coins.

Rethymnon Crete - ruins of Venetian FortezzaRethymnon Crete - ruins of Venetian Fortezza

Rethymnon Crete - the walls of the old harbour with the Venetian lighthouse, looking to the west to the beachThe walls of the old harbour with the Venetian lighthouse, looking to the west to the beach

Walking Around Rethymnon

The Porta Guora or Great Gate marks the transition from the old town to the new town, dating from 1568.

The narrow medieval streets and the Porta Guora or Great Gate mark the transition from the old town to the new town, dating from 1568.

The first place to seek out in the old town is the Rimondi Fountain from 1626 in Plateia Petichaki. It is known as the Liondaria...the Lions. This is a small fountain in a tight plateia, in the centre of the old town.

Walking the lane ways, shopping and exploring, you will find many attractive narrow streets with inviting cafes. Leave plenty of time to stroll around.

Rethymnon Old Town, a shady cafe, Crete

The Minaret of the Neratze Mosque from 1657, was built on the Venetian church of Santa Maria, and is now used as a music school.

Rethymnon Minaret

All around the old town are wonderful examples of architecture in various states of repair, each with a story to tell.

Rethymnon old door

The tight old harbour of Rethymnon with its many Venetian townhouses and restaurants is quite touristy and touts can be a little too eager, it leads on to the lighthouse, and on to the long sandy town beach to the east.

The Venetian Loggia, from the 16th century, used to be a gentlemen’s club and is now the Rethymnon information office, is just down from the Liondaria.

All around the old town, Venetian doorways and doors are to be discovered, like the one below, which is the entrance to the Veneto Restaurant. These doorways have inspired the art of the doors of Crete by Dalius Art.

The entrance to Veneto Restaurant in Rethymnon CreteThe entrance to Veneto Restaurant in Rethymnon Crete - 4 Epimenidou St

Rethymnon Town Beach

Rethymnon Beach, CreteRethymnon Beach stretches for 13 km east of the old town

Rethymnon Beach is a wide, long, sandy beach with many different types of accommodation options such as hotels, apartments and pensions, as well as beautiful luxury resorts dotted all along it.

Choose from plenty of water activities, tavernas, cafes, restaurants and beach bars.

Tavernas, Cafés and Restaurants

Taverna Kapilio Rethymnon

Of the many restaurants in the old Rethymnon town, we have a few favourites including the Taverna Akri, Veneto and Taverna Kapilio close to the Rimondi fountain

We love wandering along Odos Kefalogiannidon, enjoying the café strip by the fortezza at sunset.

Taverna Akri Rethymnon

We love the outdoor setting of Lemonokipos - the name means 'Lemon Garden - and the modern Greek stylish menu.

Lemonokipos Restaurant Rethymnon

For a truly Cretan experience, head to the village of Asteri about 14 km east of town, to taste traditional Cretan cuisine at Poliou House. Enjoy live Kritiki music between May to October on Thursday evenings.

More about Cretan Music and Dance here.

Poliou House Crete

Rethymnon Festivals

Carnival Logo
Carnival Festival Artwork
Rethymnon Karnival Poster 2018Rethymnon Karnival Poster

The Carnival at Rethymnon town, three weeks of parades, fancy dress balls and theatre sketches wakes everyone up from winter. The whole town parties during the three weeks before Lent. The Carnival is a vibrant showcase of Greek Culture, incorporating dance, theatre and art and well as traditional costumes, activities and games. The gem in the crown is the Grand Parade.

The summer program of events in June and July has a variety of events including theatre, art, dance and music. Some events are held in the atmospheric Erofili Theatre in the fortezza, some in Neratze mosque, and plenty of acts and excitement in the streets. 

The proud presentation of Cretan folk music, flamenco, telling of fairy tales, cinema and graphic arts adding colour and life all around the town occurs each year during summer.

Cretan Diet Festival - Rethymnon

The Cretan Diet Festival in July sets a bucolic scene in the Municipal Garden, with barrels full of local wine, and a program of music of international quality performances, art exhibitions and of course local food and much more.

The University of Crete

University of Crete entrance way and logo

The University of Crete has a campus at Gallos, 5 km from Ρέθυμνο with faculties of philosophy, social science, economics and political science as well as education, sciences and engineering and medicine. The University if a centre of research as well as learning and has separate campus in Heraklion. The University runs an international Erasmus program.

Historical Figure - Pantelis Prevelakis

Statue of Pantelis Prevelakis Rethymnon Crete

Pantelis Prevelakis - Παντελής Πρεβελάκης - was a poet and author born in Rethymnon town in 1908. His titles include 'The Sun of Death' published in 1959, and his most well known work is about Rethymnon 'The Chronical of a Town'. He studied law, philosophy, literature and art in Athens and Paris and was a known member of the Greek 'Generation of the 30's', recognised for his poetry, prose, drama and essays. He died in Athens in 1986, however his grave is in Rethymnon and his statue is in front of the town hall.

Activities Rethymnon Town

Rethymnon Experience

Rethymno: Old Town and Food Tasting Private Tour - treat yourself to a gastronomic exploration of this cosmopolitan town, with food and beverage tastings, hidden spots not in the guidebooks all through the old zone. 4 hour walk.

"We did this wonderful tour and it could not have been better! We learned a lot about the old town’s history and the culture of the Cretan people. We stopped at true authentic Cretan locations that are real hidden gems where the locals would go. We had the most exquisite and delicious Cretan food along the way, and we got to appreciate the way of life in old town Rethymnon. I highly recommend this tour!"

Food and Wine Experience

Winery and Olive Oil Mill Tasting Tour with Lunch
From Rethymno

Discover real Cretan virgin olive oil and learn how it is produced, taste a traditional Greek coffee in the olive oil mill, experience Dourakis Winery. Visit biological natural vineyards. Try the intense taste of raki or tsikoudia. This half-day tour is 5 hours with lunch and leaves from Rethymno and region.

"The trip was fabulous. Our guide was so friendly and knew so much about Crete. Winery and olive factory was something we wouldn’t find by ourselves. We were not rushed and experienced best Crete trip ever!"

Barbarossa Pirate Ship leaves from the harbour for a daily cruise (image by Arkangl)Barbarossa Pirate Cruise

From the Venetian Harbour in Rethymnon town leaves a very special cruise tour with Pirate Barbarossa. Cruise for 1 hour in the evening or 2.5 hours in the day.

Pirates were active around Crete in the 16th Century and none more fierce or wild than Barbarossa, learn more about Pirate Barbarossa.

Old Rethymnon Harbour panorama showing the pirate shipTake a cruise on the Pirate ship from Rethymnon Old Harbour

Accommodation in Old Rethymnon Town

Casa Moazzo

Stay within the walls of old Rethymnon town - we have chosen beautiful guesthouses with charm and plenty of local atmosphere.

The interactive map below to shows our selected accommodation options in the old town.

Beachside Accommodation

The Palm Beach Apartments, facing directly onto Rethymnon Beach allow easy access to all parts of town as well as being strolling distance from the old town and numerous tavernas, cafes and restaurants down by the promenade and Old Harbour.

These modern apartments are well-priced and convenient, with bright modern rooms, great service and a family atmosphere.

Exploring Around Rethymnon

There is plenty to see around the prefecture of Rethymnon. Take to the hills and see the real Crete. With mountains, gorges, villages and plenty of natural interests, you will learn a little more at every step.

Arkadi Monastery, Crete (Image by Lostajy)

Arkadi Monastery is 23 km from Rethymnon through rolling hills and gorges. This place is worth the visit for the architecture alone, yet it tells one of the most fascinating stories of Crete's rebellious history.

Margarites Church (image by Yiannis Makrakis)

Margarites Village is 30 km south-east from Rethymnon in gorge country. This village is famous for its ceramics. Nearby is the historic site of Eleftherna and the notorious Melidoni cave.

Plakias Beach in Rethymnon south

Plakias Beach on the south coast makes a wonderful day trip. Drive a circular route through the mountains to see the real Crete.

Triopetra Beach

Triopetra Beach - a relatively undeveloped and wild beach on the south coast where you will find wide open spaces.

Images of Rethymnon

Below are some more beautiful images of the atmospheric old town

Fishing nets down by the harbourFishing nets down by the harbour

Fresh food markets (image by Wolfgang Staudt)Open air fruit markets within the walls of the Old Town

Old town surprises (image by Michael Brys)

Taso and Toli in old townTaso and Toli - authors of We Love Crete - in the old lane ways of Rethymnon Town

Lane ways of the old town - summer shade (image by Francois Stauder)Rethymnon Town - old town laneways - entrance to Avli Restaurant

Old Town of Rethymnon Lane

Getting to Crete

Take a 1 hour flight from Athens to Heraklion with Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air, with many flights available per day.

Or take a 9.5 hour overnight ferry from Pireaus port of Athens to Heraklion port.

More on flights and ferries below.

Car hire in Crete is a really good idea as it is a large island 60 km by 260 km. There is so much to explore.

When you book with our car rental partners - Rental Centre Crete - you are supporting a local company with excellent service and easy online booking. We are sure you will be well looked after by the team. Choose from hybrid, electric or regular vehicles.

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We trust you have enjoyed these tips from the We Love Crete team. Evíva!

The We Love Crete team - Anastasi, Katia & Apostoli

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